Parents are highly encouraged to participate in their child’s digital play

As a recess first grade monitor, children’s first choice is outside on the playground or playing soccer though some that may be shy will sit on a bench with me until someone offers them a swing or slide. Indoor recess when the weather is poor is always in the classrooms playing in groups without technology. Those choices usually includes building Lego,Jenga mountains or cooking with silly putty in small groups.

They love traditional play times and will work hard not to lose any recess minutes. All the children have an I pad and our given breaks to play educational digital games. Both types of play are generally exciting to the boys and girls. But is one better than the other?

The Genius of Play  is a national movement to raise awareness of play’s vital role in child development, spearheaded by the Toy Association. Deeply rooted in research and facts, The Genius of Play is a leading resource on the physical, cognitive, social, and emotional benefits of play that serve children throughout their lives.

They released a new panel report that included child development and digital media experts convened by The Genius of Play during the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January of this year.

“Kids learn and develop crucial skills through all types of play – structured and unstructured, as well as traditional and digital play,” said Ken Seiter, The Toy Association’s executive vice president of marketing communications and the panel’s moderator. “It’s important that parents understand that screen-based or online playdoes not have to be an all or nothing experience. Our panel of experts was extremely knowledgeable and shared best practices for appropriately fostering kids’ development through digital play.”

The panel, which included Sara DeWitt, vice president of PBS Kids Digital, Dr. Jodi Sherman LeVos, director of child development & learning at Mattel, and emotional dynamics expert Dr. Erik Fisher, explored the evolving nature of play in today’s world and sought to provide parents with guidance on how to incorporate all types ofplay into a child’s daily routine. The experts’ consensus: when it comes to digital play, experiences that have a clear learning intent combined with parental engagement are paramount.

INSIGHTS FROM THE PANEL:

Play exists in a variety of arenas and forms. Opportunities for play are everywhere: at home, in school, in stores, at amusement parks, etc. Kids get the most benefit when traditional and digital play exist simultaneously, in a balanced environment.

The best kind of digital play is high-quality content that’s designed with clear learning objectives. These objectives should include: improving cognitive thinking; building language skills; encouraging social skills; and/or promoting creativity.

Technology gives kids a variety of perspectives on the world. Technology supports traditional play by reinforcing key values and adding another dimension to the play experience. For instance, apps and game play can bring unique worlds to life and allow children to explore these worlds in a new way.

Technology can also help drive the benefits of play by emphasizing personalized and adaptive learning. The best kind of high-tech play involves quality engagement in short bursts that engages kids while extending their knowledge in other areas. For instance, if a system can detect a child struggling with a particular concept, offering tutorials or prompts is an area where technology can really help kids learn.

Parents are highly encouraged to participate in their child’s digital play and ask questions. Implementing this type of interaction at an early age builds on communication skills between parent and child, develops trust, and prepares children for more serious talks about internet safety as they grow.

“Why Play is the Secret Sauce for Raising the Next Generation of Digital Innovators, A Special Report by The Genius of Play”​ can be downloaded at TheGeniusOfPlay.org.

To all graduates

I love to go to graduation ceremonies

For it is one of the few events where you observe unrequited joy

And happiness

You can see it on everyone’s face

They walk taller

They step more lively

And this is all seasoned with a little tension as if to say

“Am I really going to get this?  “Am I really finished?”

Supporters reveal a vision of pride and accomplishment

And a sense of joy that only camaraderie can produce in helping others

It is one of those very few extraordinary events

Regardless of whether graduation is from pre-school, grade school, junior high, high school, college or advanced degrees

For most that receive that simple moment of congratulations

The little flame of academic confidence begins

We are so proud of you from family and friends

That beautiful bouquet of flowers is a surprise confirmation of our love

Pictures,tributes and videos on Facebook shared

Always to be a cherished memory

No matter the detours or the road blocks, you made it

And you can do it again

For that moment, hour or day you truly believe in yourself and your purpose

So do those that surround you

Some may choose to forget in time

But if we take a few minutes to remember

As the days pass

That you must hold on to your talents

And abilities in the highest regard

Without a doubt in your heart

The next mountain will beckon you

And as you move on to the next challenge

Unexpected success will be at your side

Whether it be graduating with a degree or just moving on to the next academic level,

Happy graduation to all those experiencing this wonderful day

She still smiles

Even in the end, she would smile as I played Clair de Lune though she could not dance in the arms of my Dad now. Everyone at the nursing home was quiet; contemplating their own personal memories of  love in the moonlight that Claude Debussy’s classic piece offered.

In return, it was Moms high compliments to me and my talent. Perfecting this song over the years for her in every avenue; piano contests, recitals, recordings, restaurants and finally her final home before the everlasting journey. I am sure she would take the classical rendition with her as a  reminder. A reminder that I loved her. If there was ever a compliment from a somewhat subdued mother, it was for my piano mastery of Clair De Lune.

My father had passed away when I was twelve, Mom sold the company business that was almost bankrupt, and went to work as a secretary for 35 years; a single mother with a substantial savings and healthy 401 K.

Mom passed away before the last recession fall-out and she would never understand that today, the average number of years in one position was four years. 4.5 to be exact. During my first layoff, she was still alive and felt that it was my fault. I just didn’t produce and pursue enough. If one job didn’t pay the bills, why not three? She did not understand the world of corporate layoffs. Not her generation. I think about that far too often when I think of Mom.

As I slowly poured my coffee, it was the first Sunday I wanted to stay in bed rather than go to church. It was a the beginning of fall, still warm as the trees began their dramatic demonstration of magnificent color. My favorite time of year. I had volunteered to help record the broadcast service today and really couldn’t call in sick. It was church.

As I watched  from First Congregational United Church of Christ  classroom 504 where I could view the service in full regalia and play with the audio, the pastors message caught me off guard. Since my first visit  to this church two years ago, divine guidance was displayed through his messages. That’s how God works in all of us. But this was too good to be true

Bombarded by his divine Guidance….

His words made me sit up and take notice. And, of course,he talked about what I needed to hear; breaking the dreaded cycle of the treadmill; needing more in money, goods and not trusting that we have all that we need. The old tapes of Mom…clashing for a  moment…but quickly subsiding with a sigh of relief.  The pastors closing comment Let the Jones Win ended for me with tears beginning to surface. He did it again! Exactly what I needed.

But then something else happened.  Following the message was the offertory and music  by a guest pianist who played a beautiful arrangement. Almost in a state of physical shutdown as I recognized the song….Clair De Lune.

And now the tears tumbled into sobs as I immediately recognized that this was not a message from the pastor but my Mom who confirmed his message of hope. Mom knowing that I was living the life that God wanted for me; clearly sharing her enthusiasm.

It is not about an entire career at one company. Sometimes we develop right along with the company; forming a special bond though rare today.  How many workplaces we have visited to put food on the table is not really important.  But that we have done it!

Most, important, regardless of THE PLACE, we have the opportunity to share our faith with others; how we affect their lives is our greatest accomplishment and our reward.

I know I have done my best. Now, I just have to remember.

Always a teacher

As they walk through the door

My influence will be mirrored in each of their faces

And I wonder if I can give them what they need

But when the first questions spill from their lips,

I embrace the assets I have by my side

For throughout the course of my day,

I become the expert, coach, playwright and director

I am the motivational speaker and the historian of colorful memory and experience

I am the fire-fighter extinguishing negativity, fear,

Confusion and disappointment

I am many people and exactly what I want to be

As my passion relentlessly grows for them,

So does their passion for me

I then see promising lives begin to emerge

And new opportunities expand for many who thought

Defeat their only option

I have given them a future they richly deserve

But most of all, I have designed a monument of faith,

Hope and trust between us

What more can I say…………I am a teacher.

They have hatched!

For me and my children, it began at the Museum of Science and Industry where we watched the chicks hatch in a giant incubator. Usually we would catch chicks in progress,scratching, pecking and some newly born, tired and wet.  Seeing baby chicks hatch daily has been going on since 1956.

After our trip, my son and daughter would steal eggs from the refrigerator trying to warm them under lamps or pillows expecting their own miracle.

However, today in my school,  first graders have it all when it comes to learning genetics. Six first grade classes have their own incubator and every year eggs that are fertilized are purchased and sit for 21 days. Students discuss the development of the embryo each day and halfwaythrough, a teacher candles each egg with a flashlight to see how they are doing.

In the past, incubators have been broken and in some classes, eggs did not hatch. Nevertheless, in my class, eight have hatched and students did understand that chicks may be sick or have other problems. Most seemed healthy and have not beaten each other up which has occurred before.

The excitement began on a Sunday which was day 20 and carried into Monday and Tuesday. At the beginning of school on day 21, two brown chicks were ready to be transferred to their makeshift fish tank of grain and water after hatching the night before.

Throughout the day on Monday and Tuesday, we watched them peck holes in the eggs, some eggs cracked all around, but, eventually, more brown and yellow joined their brothers and sisters in the fish tank. The classroom children were driven to the fish tank like a magnets some more reserved until they were called over to hold a chick while their picture was taken.

The classes had five days to watch them grow and I was surprised how they sprouted so quickly. And by the end of the week, the chickens were sent to various farms or donors.

We finally had to say goodbye, one we had already named Marvin.

School chicken hatching is an annual part of the first grade curriculum and in our class it was an exceptional experience. Even for me as I sent pictures to my own adult children responding with how cute, is that a real incubator and why didn’t we have that in school.

Times change but we can still plan a family field trip to the Museum of Science and Industry. Oh…wouldn’t that be fun! We could go to the Coal mine, the fairy castle,  Yesteryear and we could get ice cream………

And, of course, the Hatchery!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fun with Dick and Jane: Still addicted to reading

I did not like Dick,Jane, Sally, Spot and whoever else was in the series. I had a difficult time reading in the beginning. I didn’t enjoy Think and Do work books  or a  kindergarten book called Work that is Play.  School work was not playtime for me until about 4th and 5th grade where I started to read…just a little….and write my first composition about a steer named Thunder who won a prize from a county fair.

It wasn’t until junior high where my writing and reading really took off with doing well in my sixth grade class on an essay for Keeping Chicago Clean that was turned in for a contest, a poem published in the Chicago Tribune about two wonderful boys I babysat for named Mark and Michael and I began to enjoy reading:

Laura ingalls Wilder: The Little House on the Prairie Series really began to intrigue me and at night before falling asleep I would day dream of the cottage that I wanted to live with a family like the Ingalls . Based on the real-life adventures of Laura Ingalls Wilder, there were nine books that were cherished by readers of all generations.  On the Banks of Plum Creek is the Newbery Honor-winning fourth book in the Little House series, this edition features the classic black-and-white artwork from Garth Williams and probably my favorite in the series.

The adventures of Laura Ingalls and her family continue as they leave their little house on the prairie and travel in their covered wagon to Minnesota. They settle into a house made of sod on the banks of beautiful Plum Creek. Soon Pa builds them a sturdier house, with real glass windows and a hinged door. Laura and Mary go to school, help with the chores around the house, and fish in the creek. Pa’s fiddle lulls them all to sleep at the end of the day. But then disaster strikes—on top of a terrible blizzard, a grasshopper infestation devours their wheat crop. Now the family must work harder than ever to overcome these challenges.

Trixie Belden: The title character in a series of “girl detective” mysteries written between 1948 and 1986. The first six books were written by Julie Campbell Tatham, who also wrote the Ginny Gordon series, then continued by various in-house writers from Western Publishing under the pseudonym Kathryn Kenny. Today the rights to the series are owned by Random House. The series was out of print for a number of years, but Random House began releasing a new edition of the books in mid-2003. As of mid-2006, volumes 1 – 15 have been reissued.

Beatrix “Trixie” Belden is a young teen living just outside the fictional town of Sleepyside-on-Hudson, in the Hudson Valley area of New York. She lives at Crabapple Farm, which had been in her family for either three or six generations (this varies between books), with her parents and three brothers, Brian, Mart, and Bobby. The first book establishes her friendship with lonely, sheltered rich girl, Honey Wheeler, whose family has just moved into the Manor House next door and soon the girls are embroiled in their first case.

I loved Trixie and the book was not always easy to find. Many of my friends liked the Bobsey Twins or Nancy Drew and though I read those years later, it was Trixie that got me excited about reading and girl time adventures.

Anne of Green Gables: A 1908 novel by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery (published as L. M. Montgomery). Written for all ages, it has been considered a children’s novel since the mid-twentieth century. It recounts the adventures of Anne Shirley, an 11-year-old orphan girl who is mistakenly sent to Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, a middle-aged brother and sister who had intended to adopt a boy to help them on their farm in the fictional town of Avonlea on Prince Edward Island. The novel recounts how Anne makes her way with the Cuthberts, in school, and within the town. Since its publication, Anne of Green Gables has sold more than 50 million copies and has been translated into at least 36 languages

I vaguely remember reading Anne as a school assignment and again fell in love with the detail and description. I struggled, but was willing to do my best with learning the delicate vocabulary.

From them on through the decades, not just years, I have never been without a book. I have given up smoking, adjusted to new people, new jobs, new things but can’t imagine life without a book. I will never forget someone telling me years ago that you are never bored if you love to read.

And reading opened the door for constant writing of new form and ideas; another love I try to do daily.

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”
― Charles William Eliot

 

For the love of God

I took a day off from school/work last week. I did not feel well that morning and had not slept the night before. As the morning progressed, I felt better and then the guilt began. I took a day off of work…..for the love of God! But as the day continued, I found out that taking that day was how God decided to share.

It was a rainy day which are always my favorites for creativity and I finished an article on my new computer given to me by my partner where I can open one Internet tab after another without delay and enjoyed my research without re-starting the machine again and again.The light in my office was just right, cozy and warm, as I researched to my hearts content and wrote.

I was allowed the day to take breaks…. to stretch out on my bed or venture downstairs to my living room with all the beautiful things I love in furniture and design. Though I had lived in the home over 30 years, raised my children, I normally see the daylight shining on the remodeling work that needs to be done like replacing the carpet and the dinghy walls. Today, I saw the new furniture, artwork, dolls, plates and knick knacks in a whole new light and I knew why I chose this place to live; then and now.

Still feeling healthier as the day moved into the late afternoon, I went to Target, only a few blocks a way which is my usual stop for just about everything and anything. Today, it was cat litter…a must my Joe Bo cat can’t live without. The store was quiet since it was a weekday and not a holiday. Items in the store seemed fresh and new though I had been down the aisles thousands of times before. I slowly walked; watching my toddler son and daughter in memory point to their favorite toy which was a great Mommy field trip to the store. Then, I watched me alone today, and I enjoyed the trip just as much. Today!

After Target, I stopped at Hobby Lobby, almost in walking distance from my house. Going to Hobby Lobby was like going on vacation. I wanted to buy some blank canvas for my new art room where I am attempting to color and paint, another gift from my love who truly likes to bring out my creativity. Canvas’s are in the back of the store but I take my time.

And I realize that I am in one section where I am surrounded by love at Hobby Lobby. Every crafted wall design that includes, let love grow, P.S. I love you, every day I love you, hello love, love you lots, love you lots and it goes on. I slightly turn to gaze at the messages and I realize in a whisper that it is a special message to me. I am surrounded at school, in family circles, with friends and my partner by love. Most of all, God’s love.

Then I see my most favorite of them all…. Love never fails!

When we give and receive love, and find it most important of all things, life doesn’t fail!

Thoughts on being a survivor

Our ego’s don’t want to be ignored and occasionally let their presence be known by reminding us that it is someone’s else’s fault especially if that someone is family. It is because I grew up homeless. My mother made mistakes. My father abandoned me. My grandfather died by accident. The reason I inhale chocolate is because I never had more than macaroni and cheese to eat for dinner. I am the way I am because I was born that way and just can’t help it.

Regardless of the excuses, it is the choices we make that decides our present and future. But, once in awhile, I hear about the dysfunctional family again; that they made me do it. Many that are living prominent and basically happy lives will still blame family when they make their own mistakes.

It is a tragedy if our childhood was filled with abuse, death and desolation. As a result of our histories, sadness and confused decision-making does affect our life choices that can cause chaos. But if that happens, the true survivor turns around and gets help, they talk to counselors and mentors so that they can become confident in their decisions and stay away from the dangerous tapes of their dysfunctional heritage.

The true survivor learns to be fortunate rather than dwell on misfortune. The survivor feels that diversity is truly a journey toward success. One student I taught commented that she was always criticized for her grades in school; which was all A’s and an occasional B in math and that her mother told her she was not college material even after obtaining those excellent grades and receiving a 27 on her ACT. The student graduated with High Honors while obtaining her Bachelors and maintains the same average as she pursues her Masters. She did not think another thing about it!

Another student found herself homeless but somehow managed to create the energy and motivation to find a computer and maintain her A average. Did she feel deprived not having a secure and comfortable place to sleep and want to blame the world along with family that could have helped…yes , but she re-directed those thoughts quickly to a distant place in her mind and focused on how she could be successful today.

Yes, the survivor tends to be riddled with one assignment after another; an exhausting identity, to say the least, and sometimes the survivor takes on the problems of others along with their own. In fact, they’re expected to do just that because they are the survivor.

But that is when they get into trouble, because once again, no one is responsible for you but guess who? A successful survivor knows which assignments to accept.

One person told me that from his spiritual perspective and religious belief, we choose our parents and friends before we are born into this world. What were we thinking? However, if true, we, once again, made that choice; now for what purpose is what.. some of us are still trying to figure out.

Beat Bugs: Winter break fun

As I watched with a group of children, we could not take our eyes of the television screen as we entered the world of imaginary bugs building colorful homes in an over grown backyard. I wanted to check out the grass in our own backyard…just at that moment.. but was afraid I would hurt them.

The Beat Bugs explored, invented and sometimes found themselves in trouble, one who actually got stuck in a bottle that was filling with water, but someone was there to help. Crick, Jay, Buzz, Kumi, and Walter are the main Beat Bugs who are always learning lessons and there are visiting bugs and creatures that help teach those valuable life lessons. Postman Bee works as a postal worker and there is Doris the Spider who actually teaches the bugs to see beauty in everything including her webbing.

After watching several shows one boy said that because of Doris the Spider, he wasn’t going to be afraid of spiders anymore. Great New Years resolution!

Beat Bugs is an Emmy Award winning animated preschool series that airs on Netflix about a bunch of cute bugs who go on fun adventures. Many of the adventures are inspired by familiar Beatles songs which brought a smile to my face including Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, a dragonfly who appears as the song is played. She is known for her wings resembling diamonds and her kaleidoscopic eyes; a guest bug in the series. Kids are now hearing Beatles songs on this show and are going around singing wherever they go.

Target just launched a huge consumer product line for parents and teachers interested in buying the Beat Bugs.

Beat Bugs Hijinx Alive:

These Beat Bugs character figurines come to life (there’s also a huge plush version) when they hear the show being played on TV (or DVD or the app). They actually start singing at the right time when they hear the characters start to sing from the season 1 episodes. The figures light up and move their mouths when they sing and can also sing along with other Beat Bugs Hijinx alive toys!

Ages 3+, MSRP $24.00 for the 6″figures, Walter Plush version is $29.99 Here’s a link: Hijinx Alive and Hijinx Singing Walter Plush.

Here’s a link of all the toys available– Beat Bugs Complete Consumer Product Line

Check out Beatbugs.com for updated information, things to color and other activities. For parents and teachers, you can help your little one build a terrarium and bring their own garden inside. You can download a free fun activity book filled with coloring pages and practice pages for writing.

The best holiday plays in Chicagoland

My first trip to see the play, A Christmas Carol, was in April… not the holidays.  Mid 1960’s it was hosted at Drury Lane Theater in Evergreen Park and I sat through a 2 1/2 hour show with a broken arm. I tripped on a dimly lit step during an afternoon matinee for my best friend’s birthday party.  Unfortunately, the details of the performance are vague since I was focused on not moving my arm to avoid massive pain. That night, I was hospitalized at South Chicago Hospital which was the way of doing things back then and operated on the next day since my arm was broken in three places.

Since, I have enjoyed numerous performances and movies of A Christmas Carol without interruption. Today, if tickets are still available the Christmas Carol, can be enjoyed in the Chicago land area. Though the Evergreen Park Theater, is no longer open, Drury Lane Theater still exists and is presenting A Christmas Carol between now and Dec 23 at the Oakbrook Terrace theater.

Established in 1925, the Goodman Theatre has been a part of Chicago’s loop for over 80 years and I can’t remember the countless shows I have seen there. However, I will never forget one of the best performances of Long Day’s Journey Into Night. You can also see A Christmas Carol at the Goodman Theatre Chicago through December 31st.

In the late 1960’s, I also got to the see the Nutcracker Ballet though it was difficult for me to understand the story when I was about 7 or 8 because I kept waiting for words in between dances. Though confused, I still could not take my eyes away from the amazing costumes, dance and music.

It is a story written in 1816 by German author E. T. A. Hoffmann, in which young Marie Stahlbaum’s favorite Christmas toy, the Nutcracker, comes alive and, after defeating the evil Mouse King in battle, whisks her away to a magical kingdom populated by dolls. The story begins on Christmas Eve.

I loved ballet and watching them stand on their toes, something I  could never get right.. I, too, took ballet early on as a young girl.

It is strange that I think about the Nutcracker this year since the Joffrey Ballet is performing this holiday masterpiece.  And I saw the Nutcracker again as an adult when the Joffrey was only New York and Los Angeles based. Now, the Joffrey, which trains to the highest standards, lives permanently in a new facility, Joffrey Tower, in Chicago.

It is also strange that I think of my childhood experience with the Nutcracker as I watch my first grade students learning the story in their music class. We have listened to the famous March, read the book, and watched a beautiful video with different interpretations, names, but always followed by the same exceptional music including  Waltz of the Flowers and Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Fifty years later, still, I am mesmerized by the video of creative color and song. My little ones cannot pull their eyes away from the beauty of the Nutcracker either.